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Belarus Special Weapons

When the Soviet Union dissolved, Belarus (along with Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan) technically became a nuclear power because of the 81 SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on its soil, even though the republic's Declaration of State Sovereignty declared Belarus to be a nuclear-free state. In May 1992, Belarus signed the Lisbon Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and along with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, agreed to destroy or turn over all strategic nuclear warheads on its territory to Russia.

To achieve this objective, the Supreme Soviet had to ratify the START I Treaty. For some time however, the legislature stalled while seeking international guarantees for the republic's security and international funding to carry out the removal. Finally, on February 4, 1993, the START I Treaty was ratified and adherence to the NPT was approved. All tactical nuclear weapons were removed from Belarus by mid-1993. Although the country strove to remove the strategic nuclear weapons (based at Lida and Mazyr) by 1995, there was little hope of meeting this deadline. President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko decided to stop Conventional Forces in Europe arms reductions in February 1995, claiming it was due to NATO encroachments on Belarus's territory; however, it wasactually a matter of finances. These remaining strategic nuclear weapons were tended by Russian troops who would continue to be stationed there for 25 years according to the customs union agreements reached with Russia in January and February of 1995.

As of July 1996, a total of 63 of the initial 81 single-warhead mobile SS-25 Topol missiles had been withdrawn, with the remaining 18 yet to be removed to Russia. However, President Lukashenko announced that Belarus would suspend the withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Belarus to Russia. President Lukashenko said the decision to withdraw the weapons was a political mistake made by the previous leadership, and that it was unnecessary since Belarus and Russia may soon unite. The weapons had been dismantled and were no longer a military threat, and were finally returned to Russia in late November 1996.

Belarus became a non-nuclear weapons state in November 1996.

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Maintained by Hans M. Kristensen (hkristensen@fas.org) and Jonathan Garbose